Will YOU live to be 100? Do you want to find out?

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Aunt Dina on her 100th Birthday!

I consider myself extremely privileged to have been present at the one hundredth birthday celebration of Aunt Dina shown here! I was reminded of this event earlier this week as I came across a couple of online widgets that purported to be able to give you a guideline as to how long you might live based on your history and lifestyle.

Of course, I was forced to try them out! Just for the reason of journalistic curiousity, you understand. In reality, I am not sure that I really have a lot of faith in these attempts to fit people into some sort of funnel and try to get something meaningful to come out at the end. As an example of why this may not be too fruitful, take the results that I got from the two different websites.

1. The site that purported to be specifically for Canadians (Canadian Business Life Expectancy Tool), predicted that I would live to the ripe old age of 81. That leaves me with 24 years to go. Even though that would put me above the current life expectancy for a male, I’m still not sure that I wish to settle for so little less time. The way things are going, by that time I may not see my married daughter have children or my 27 year-old son in a steady job 😉

2. The more generic site (Living to 100), which asked way more seemingly pertinent questions first told me that I was going to live to 97, however, it included questions about childbirth and menopause, which seemed a little odd! So I re-took the test and discovered that I had neglected to tick the box indicating my sex. This time, I was given a life expectancy of 94 years. Much better but still a little disconcerting…

We all know that we are going to die. The old adage about death and taxes is bandied about with regularity after all. However, I do not believe that many of us actually give any real thought, on a daily basis, about how our actions and habits are affecting our lifespan. Nor do I necessarily believe that this is a negative thing. Too much time worrying about the potential future merely detracts from a meaningful present.

Most of us are aware of individuals who did almost everything right and yet succumbed to an early death for one often random reason or another. On the other hand, we probably can all think of a friend, relative or acquaintance who smoked, drank or abused their body relentlessly in one of many ways and yet lived to a ripe old age. For most of us, it simply is not in our best interests to be privvy to the future. On the other hand, personally, I am going to do everything that I consider reasonable not to reduce my odds of  reaching Aunt Dina’s  milestone.

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Sometimes (Often) technology just plain sucks!

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Our Poor Tree

Poor Tree! Sacrificed and Maimed on the Altar of Technology

What’s the point of having a blog if you can’t use it to sound off about what really bugs you every now and again?

Today, I read where Apple’s new iPad is being banned on several U.S. university campuses because it is  bringing their networks down. It reminded me that like most things in life, technology is a double-edged sword. In case, you want to jump to its defense, let me just say one word: Toyota! Of course, some of us might like a car where you don’t even have to step on the gas to live life in the fast lane!

My own life recently has had its own share of technical anomalies. The first that comes to mind happened last spring when our satellite signal started cutting out. Being relatively technically savvy, I was able to determine that all connections were solid and all equipment was functional. So, I called in the experts. A technician arrived and pronounced that one side of the tree in our front yard was blocking the signal. Since his diagnosis seemed to fit the facts, I dutifully lopped off the offending branches. Still no signal! Later, since the ‘diagnosis’ was guaranteed, a second technician showed up and claimed I had been instructed to lop off the wrong branches. I was not going to make the same mistake twice so I made the second self-proclaimed expert stay and work with me to determine exactly which branches needed to come down. By the time we were done, almost two thirds of the tree was gone but it turned out that only a couple of the top branches were really blocking the signal!

Don’t fall into the trap of believing that faulty technology is restricted to electronics and hi-tech. Last season, we forked out almost $2,000 for a new secure cover for our pool. A team of two men descended upon us and spent the better part of a day measuring and drilling holes in the concrete deck around the pool.  A few weeks later, the custom-made cover arrived. We didn’t install it right away because we still had a couple of weeks of good weather left. When the time came to winterize the pool, you can imagine our surprise to discover that it just plain doesn’t fit. The problem? Well although our pool is basically rectangular, it has rounded corners. Apparently, someone neglected to tell this to the manufacturer….

I’m sure that many of you are like us and have a wireless router in your home. A nice convenience. I would not want to be without it. However, one computer in the house simply refuses to connect reliably to the network. I have personally spent hours troubleshooting and pulling my hair out. I am always able to restore the connection but hours or days later, the problem simply recurs. The cynic in me wants to believe that the developers of all this high-tech equipment deliberately design it so that products of differing companies are incompatible! 

Facebook and Twitter are both must-have social networking tools and their respective gurus claim that they could and indeed should work together. Once again, I swallowed the bait and followed the instructions to have blog posts automatically echoed through Twitter to Facebook. Three weeks later, I have yet to have a single post work in a timely fashion if at all. Perusing the forums, I soon discovered that there are a plethora of unsolved problems of a similar nature that are routinely swept under the rug.

Just yesterday, I encountered a problem where WordPerfect would not allow me add a simple tab to my document. All I wanted to do was to indent the first word of a paragraph. Not an unreasonable thing to want to do! After all, there is a key on the keyboard for just that purpose. However, Wordperfect decided for some unknown reason, that I did not need a tab. Try as I might, I could not get the confounded program to obey my wishes. I’m sure that there is a simple explanation and fix but for the time being, the software is the winner. I gave up in frustration.

Our army of techno-helpersFinally, let me point to one glaring example of technology running amok. We have a fairly standard home theatre system. To operate it fully, we have an army of remotes. At least two of them purport to be multi-functional. However, no single remote is capable of controlling every piece of equipment. Furthermore, one needs encyclopedic knowledge and the patience of Job to programme the multi-function remotes correctly. As mentioned, I consider myself relatively tecnically adept. Nevertheless, I have not yet taken on the Herculean task of fully programming either of them. As a result, ALL remotes are necessary and you MUST know which does what. Although I make light of the situation with Dorothy, I can really commiserate with her disdain for them!

Now don’t get me wrong here, I am an addicted technophile. However, it is becoming apparent that at some point and sooner rather than later, we have to spend as least as much time and energy to make things work as we do to think them up!


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We’ve come a long way but where exactly are we going?

Canada Day on Parliament Hill in Ottawa

You don't have to wear red on Canada Day but MOST choose to!

It’s funny how a seemingly trivial event can touch off a train of thought that ends up quite far from its original trajectory! That’s exactly what happened to me on the week-end when our next door neigbour mistakenly greeted me as Dorothy (my wife) across the fence. I was in the middle of hanging washing on the line and obviously, she had not looked closely and therefore assumed that it was indeed my wife and not myself. For some reason, I was mildly peturbed by this understandable error. Indeed, her own husband is surely not the type to do this and most often, it is Dorothy who does hang out the majority of the laundry because she likes the ‘fresh-air’ smell and feel. Personally, although I realize that it makes sense and saves money, the environment etc., I would still use the dryer at the least excuse.

It was the automatic assumption that the neighbour made that really got me thinking. Things have certainly changed in recent times! As I was growing up as a child, my father would never have hung out washing unless he were specifically asked, something that my mother was not likely to do. In today’s world as we inch toward ‘total equality’ of the sexes, a larger percentage of men are likely to be seen doing ‘women’s work’. Men now routinely stay at home and look after the children while the mother brings home the bacon.

It is the concept ‘equality’ that was really causing me grief! After considerable thought and consideration, I have come to the conclusion that I am not a fan of nor believer in equality. All men (and women) are NOT born equal. We all have different faculties, physical attributes and future potential. Try as we may, very few of us will become astronauts, country presidents or famous actors. First, we need the aptitude and secondly the opportunity. In neither case are we, as members of the human race, equal. Some will have more skill or aptitude and yet others will have more opportunity. The lucky ones amongst us will be able to have the two coincide and will succeed where others will fail.

It seems to me that we really need to change our focus away from the concept of equality towards one of tolerance and encouragement. We should accept that whether we like it or not, there are trends and norms that exist in society. Furthermore, it is completely normal and indeed important that we recognize and except them, provided that they are to the benefit of the majority. A perfect example is that of sexual orientation. Like it or not, the majority of the population is heterosexual. Always has been, always will be. Therefore, it is normal that our governmental and societal structures reflect that fact. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with either homosexuality or bisexuality or any other variant thereof. Live and let live should be the watchword, but let’s not have the tail wagging the dog!

The same thing applies to racial profiling. If I am a law enforcement officer and am investigating a crime where 90% of all recent break-ins was carried out by a one-legged albino, most people would consider me derelict in my duty if I did not stop and question ANY one-legged albino I encountered. Now, my sympathies go out to all the one-legged albinos that are inconvenienced, but them’s the breaks!

Although I may seem to be digressing slightly, the basic point is men and women will never be equal! We are physically and mentally different (thank goodness)! So why do we need this pretence of equality. Since women physically bear the offspring and are more apt to nurture them than we men, why should we not recognize this? I am not saying that we should put any roadblocks in the way of men who wish to perform these functions (except the actual gestation) but let’s accept the fact that, for the majority of couples, it will be the mother who chooses to forgo some part of her career to bring up the childrem. And if neither of them do, that’s okay too, but I don’t believe that it is in society’s interest as a whole that we actively encourage deviation from the norm. Live and let live by all means, but why must we insist on denying the basics of who and what we are.

I am not wanting to start a discussion of Darwinian principles, but it seems obvious, to me at least, that Mother Nature, over the millenia, intended that the men should hunt and gather while the women tend to the offspring. Must it be this way? No, but is there necessarily anything wrong with it either? Only if we FORCE either man or woman to conform against their will.

Diversity is a critical and beneficial component of our society. However, once we start promoting it to the detriment of the majority, anarchy will never be far away.

So, as you can see, one chance greeting over the fence took me on quite a philosophical journey. It ended with me coming to the conclusion that if we could only replace the quest for equality with enhanced respect for all our differences, we would be taking a step in the right direction.

The Rights and Wrongs of Digital Video – A crash course!

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Until very recently, I had all but given up on ever producing any really useful video photography. The main problem lay in the fact that unlike still photography, where you can immediately delete any shot that isn’t up to snuff, video requires intricate and time-consuming editing that is not easily accomplished without detailed knowledge and heretofore expensive hardware and software.

Canon-E61-Camcorder

Did you ever own one of these brutes?

The last time that I really did any serious videography was about 20 years ago with a Canon Videocam that looked more like a kid’s lunchbox than one of today’s pocket-sized multi-function units. Recordings went onto little cassettes that were the size of a pack of cigarettes. Playback was accomplished by hooking the videocam up to a TV with a patch cable and quality was mediocre at best. I don’t think that I could have justified the $1,000+ price tag except that we needed it for our business. We probably never got our money’s worth and it still hangs around the house today because without it, we have no way of playing back those 8MM cassettes!

When it comes to technology and gadgets, I will admit that I am a techno-junkie. In more acceptable terms we like to call ourselves ‘early adopters’. What this really means is: ‘I have to get my hands on it before anyone else!’ In my own defense here, I will add that I have not even been tempted to plunk down my hard-earned cash for an iPad. That may be largely because they spurned all shutterbugs by omitting photo and video capabilities.

FUJI 2600Z 2.1 megapixel Digital Camera

Just 7 yrs ago, THIS was state-of-the-art! Huh?!

The next step in my video evolution occurred about 10 years ago now, when I purchased a  demo-model FUJI 2600Z digital camera. Once again, the purchase purported to be principally for business use. Indeed, in those days, I did have need of  a digital camera for reporting on merchandising displays. However, I had originally been supplied with one of the very first Kodak Megapixel cameras at a cost of $1,100+ (to my employer). The Kodak, however, did not have video capability. I bought the Fuji, not because of its video capability but rather because its resolution was an amazing 2.1 megapixels 😉 Video, although present was at low resolution and frame rate. It produced poor video without sound. Furthermore, filming was restricted to 20 second bursts. Needless to say, I did not use the video function very much.

Another problem with video back in the late 90’s, was the fact that there were already competing codecs (formats) and many computers had neither the hardware nor software capabilities to do justice to even the poor quality of video produced. O f course, professionals who had both the time and money to overcome these limitations were not bound by the same restrictions.

We will finish off this instalment by showing you a shining example of video shot with the FUJI 2600Z in 2003, without sound and @ 10 frames per second. One really wonders why anyone would bother, since except for the fact of it being colour, it could be WWII footage! Over the next few instalments, we hope to demonstrate that you no longer need to spend a lot or to be a professional to shoot, edit and produce video and get professional-looking results without breaking the bank. If you want be automatically be kept in the loop as we continue this saga, you can follow us on Twitter, join our Facebook Fan page or subscribe to our RSS feed via browser, reader or by receiving e-mail updates. All the links to accomplish any  of these can be found in the right hand column near the top of the page.

In our upcoming instalments, we will show you how you can dress up even quirky old video pieces like this into something that is fun to watch. All you need is a computer and the following piece of video editing & production software that costs less than $70!


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Of birds and bicycles – Spring comes to Ottawa

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Our opening Salvo…

Welcome to our inaugural post on our latest blog.

In general, this blog will serve as a place to publish photos, videos and our day-to-day musings! It seems fitting that our first post should include video of our Friday night companions, Amber, Lara and Fayth! What they lack in musical talent they more than make up for in cuteness factor….

Amber, Lara and Fayth at Broadway on Friday evening!